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March 10, 2023

March 15, 2023

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Mississippi. For some people, just the name elicits strong emotions. Without any doubt, when people think about the Civil Rights Movement, Mississippi is front and center. So, while there, I visited the Civil Rights Museum and had an incredible encounter. They say timing is everything. Well, it was for me that day. And the museum itself was fascinating.

After paying the fee, I entered the first room, where a museum docent met me. She handed me some literature and told me about a local celebrity in the movement who had written a book. And it just so happened that he gives speeches to groups who enter the museum. She pointed him out to me just as he was about to start. His name is Hezekiah Watkins, the youngest Freedom Rider from Mississippi. He was arrested in 1961 and sent to a notorious prison, where he was placed on death row. Apparently, he had made the grave mistake of walking through the wrong door. After the speech, I approached him, and he agreed to be interviewed for my project. We will do that on Zoom in the coming days.

I gave a speech to The Flowood Rotary Club, which had printed brochures for the lunchtime event. The front page read, “Today’s Special Guest, Gregory Leeson, World Traveler.” I got a kick out of that. I interviewed one other gentleman who also had a compelling story. For the second time, someone bought me a meal. Both happened in the South.

On the drive from Jackson to Memphis, I stopped in the Mississippi Delta region for lunch. I was looking forward to authentic southern food in Greenwood, Mississippi. Well, timing is everything; things shut down for lunch at 2pm in that town. So, I walked into a barber shop and asked for a recommendation. Go to “What’s Cooking,” they said. I did, ordered something to drink, and then received the menu. It was a sandwich shop with one daily cooked meal. But they were not allowed to serve it since it was after 2pm. They could not even prepare fries. My southern Mississippi Delta meal consisted of a Reuben sandwich, potato salad, and a glass of milk. It was not what I expected when I made my slight detour off the highway. Timing is everything.

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